I’m just piping in here to say that I still enjoy “Black Mirror” — even after Season 5 left a lot of fans nonplussed. No, this tonally different, three-episode arc wasn’t the show’s best season, but it was still a decent watch. I had some minor criticisms, but I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.
Perhaps predictably, my favorite of the three was “Smithereens.” Not only did it most closely follow the tone and dialogue of past seasons, it boasted a fine lead performance by Andrew Scott, better known to many of us as Moriarty from Britain’s “Sherlock” (2010-2017).
For those of you who are wondering why the “season” was so short, I read today that “Bandersnatch” was supposed to be a part of it, and was produced at about the same time. The showrunners then decided to make that episode a standalone feature, given its unique nature.
So I learned from a friend last night about the mythical significance of Lilith in the Talmud. This was Adam’s first wife, portrayed in the same books that would later comprise the Book of Genesis — though she was excised from them when they were incorporated into the Bible. (Yes, I have weird telephone conversations with my friends before bed.)
Aside from being a notable figure for feminists (she demanded equality with Adam), Lilith is alternatively portrayed as an evil or demonic figure. If I understand correctly, this is because she defied God’s law about Adam’s superiority, essentially “divorced” him, and left the Garden of Eden. (Jewish tradition holds that Eve was actually Adam’s third wife.)
So now I understand why the name pops up so often for villains in horror films and fiction. My own favorite is the vampire queen Lilith from the 2010 film adaptation of Steve Niles’ comic series, “30 Days of Night: Dark Days.” (See the trailer in the first video below. She’s the girl with the … dark eyes.) “Dark Days” was a surprisingly terrific movie for a direct-to-video sequel … Niles seems to be the rare creator to have anything he touches turn to gold. (In addition to the movies, the many comic book limited series under the “30 Days of Night” banner have been almost uniformly excellent … “Dead Space” was pretty clunky and the 2017 reboot was largely unnecessary, but they were both still enjoyable.)
Anyway, the Lilith you see in the trailer was played by the priceless Mia Kirshner. If she seems a like a familiar female villain, it might be because you remember Kirshner as Mandy, the mysterious, cherubic assassin on “24” (2001-2014).
It also occurs to me now that the name of Frazier’s ex-wife on “Cheers” and “Frazier” was a subtle joke too — complete with an ostensibly psychic character calling her an “evil presence.”
You learn something new every day.
“The Dead Don’t Die” indeed has the greatest zombie cast ever assembled. Seriously, just look at that poster below. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the best zombie screenplay ever written, or the best direction ever seen in a zombie film. This would-be classic was a surprisingly average viewing experience; I’d rate it a 6 out of 10.
I almost feel guilty for feeling so unenthusiastic, because I like so many of these actors so much. Bill Murray and Adam Driver actually are quite funny as the movie’s two torpid police officers; Chloe Sevigny makes them even funnier as their panicked straight man. And the addition of Tilda Swinton’s zany Scottish samurai undertaker makes them the perfect comedic quartet. (I think this is the first time I’ve seen Sevigny in a movie, as she mostly does arthouse films — including 2003’s ignominiously reviled “The Brown Bunny.” And I had no idea that Driver was this talented, given his milquetoast turn as a villain in the most recent spate of “Star Wars” films.) I honestly would love to see the four of these characters battle apocalyptic threats in a series of comedies — aliens, vampires, killer robots from the future … whatever.
Other big names shine here as well. Tom Waits and Caleb Landry Jones are both surprisingly funny, delivering little bouts of quirky, laconic, character-driven dialogue in a film that seems intended as mashup between “Cannery Row” (1982) and the first two “Return of the Living Dead” films (1985, 1988). (I first saw Jones as the creepy kid in 2010’s “The Last Exorcism;” I suspect that more of my friends will recognize him as Banshee from 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”)
The problem is this — although many of the characters are engaging, they populate a subdued, disconnected movie that is frequently quite slow. Writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s heart is in the right place — assembling this oddball ensemble cast for the mashup I mentioned above is actually a terrific idea. But “The Dead Don’t Die” ultimately lacks punch, and even a tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy needs a minimum of tension. The movie is a bit too lethargic to become the truly great film that the trailer led us to hope for.
Complicating matters is the fact that that several groups of characters follow story arcs that go nowhere — sometimes literally. (Where did the kids from the juvenile detention center run off to? Why were they included at all? Not much happens to them and they have nothing to do with the rest of the movie.) This movie often felt like a number of comedy skits stitched together — some were admittedly quite funny, but they didn’t add up to a cohesive story.
Oh, well. It’s possible that you will like “The Dead Don’t Die” much more than I did. I might be the wrong audience for this, as I’ve never cared much for horror-comedies. (The aforementioned “Return of the Living Dead” films are on the short list of those that I like.) Your mileage may vary.